Need help putting PC graphics workstation together!

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Pamela, Feb 11, 2003.

  1. Pamela

    Pamela Supporting Actor

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    I was given task of getting the specs for a PC workstation that will be used in a graphics-intensive situation. It's for our in-house print shop. Right now they have an ancient desktop that's not good for much of anything. I am an Apple person, so I confess I don't know much about the PC world. Dell would be preferable, as that's who IS has the contract with, but I'm sure I could make the case for another brand if it is more suitable. I already have the monitor picked out?a Sony G520. Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Gabriel_Lam

    Gabriel_Lam Screenwriter

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    What's your budget?
     
  3. Pamela

    Pamela Supporting Actor

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    I don't have a budget. I'm guessing up to $3,000. It's open-ended.
     
  4. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    How serious is the graphics work? You will probably need to invest in a monitor/color calibration device. It is essential in a serious publishing environment.

    A device like a Colorvision Spyder with OptiCAL or PhotoCAL (http://www.colorvision.com/home.html), MonacoEZColor, etc. With luck, the print shop already has one!

    That Sony monitor sounds like a good one. Hopefully it has good built-in calibration controls such as RGB gun adjustment, color temperature control, hue/saturation control, etc.

    You'll probably want as much memory as possible in the computer. I'd say at least 1 gigabyte of RAM and a really beefy hard drive. Hell, get as much RAM as possible, especially if the computer is going to do lots of Photoshop work. Get the highest quality video card your budget allows. A higher-end Matrox card would be excellent for 2D work (the RT line I guess, I'm no longer familiar with the new Matrox line of cards). If 3D work is being done, well, I'm not sure what would work without sacrificing video quality.

    Your Apple knowledge in a print environment should come in handy...
     
  5. Gabriel_Lam

    Gabriel_Lam Screenwriter

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    Wow, that's quite a budget, actually. I have one of Dell's Precision 650 units and I love it. However, there are many great brands.

    For graphics intensive work, dual processors is nice. You'll also want a good video card.
     
  6. Pamela

    Pamela Supporting Actor

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  7. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    The Intel Xeon I believe is intended for server machines. You probably don't need one. A regular Pentium IV 2.7GHz CPU would likely get the job done. The AMD Athlon CPUs are very popular too (usually half the price as the Intel CPUs at roughly the same performance level).

    Personally, with a bigger budget, I'd go for the Pentium IV CPU and at least 1 gig of RDRAM memory (most popular alternative is DDR-SDRAM memory). Dell should have some good solutions for you.

    What video card options does Dell support? For 2D work, consider a Matrox card or ATI card. Of course, only the higher-end versions have the ability to drive the high-end monitors (1600x1200 and greater at 85Hz video refresh rate without going all fuzzy and blurry).

    Too bad LCD monitors are not (yet) appropriate for prepress graphics work. They are too difficult to calibrate properly.
     
  8. Mark Frank

    Mark Frank Stunt Coordinator

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    I'd second the Dell Precision line. If I recall you can get either Pentium 4 or Xeon processors and some of the systems will do dual processors and up to 2GB of RAM.
     
  9. Scott McC.

    Scott McC. Stunt Coordinator

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    just so you know, Xeons are designed for dual processor work in a server environment, and come in 2.0, 2.4, and 2.8 Ghz flavors, but are not available in a 2.7 Ghz flavor as mentioned above. Pentium 4's go up to 3.06 Ghz and the top ones feature hyperthreading with uses coding magic to appear to windows as two logical processors, but that's besides the point, it offers a nice speed boost for artsy stuff, so a 3.06 P4 would be a nice fit. For a videocard, ATi and Matrox are both great 2D performers, but if you want to do rendering, then the only card you should be looking at is the ATi FireGL X-1 due to its massive speed enhancements, along with stunning accuracy. I'd get at least a gig of ram, if not more. Just so you know, if you can wait 3 months you can buy a Quad Processor Hammer solution from AMD, which would feature roughly 8 gigs of RAM and would slaughter any of the previous options, could you give us some of the apps that they will be using this PC for, as certain configurations are designed for certain programs.
     
  10. Tekara

    Tekara Supporting Actor

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    Don't kid yourself on your processor, for graphics work you want at LEAST a dual cpu rig. you can look into an Athlon MP rig, but the intel Xeon's are no slouch. having multple cpus is a must for when you start applying effects onto your images.

    If your doing rendering then make sure you look into either a nVidia GF4 quadro or a ATI FireGL X1 people underestimate the power of a good workstation graphics card, if this is not a company computer or you don't have any qualms about voiding warrenties then you can look into buying a cheaper radeon 9700pro and hacking it into a FireX1.

    Ram is your friend if you only get 1gig make sure it's on a single stick because you'll be needing to look towards upgrading to 2gig soon enough. if your actually working with professional graphics then your files will be MASSIVE.

    This is the only time I would suggest a mac, since you are more adjusted to them ,you can look into a mac dual g4 setup, they are powerful and good for graphics work. I personally have no taste for macs, but what you are looking into is what this computer was designed for so I won't be a fanboy and not toss it out as an idea.

    anyway, I know this all sounds like a lot, but having a computer geared towards what your doing will make life a lot easier. if you would be intersted in building your own computer, I can easily work up a list of components to look into.
     
  11. Pamela

    Pamela Supporting Actor

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    Wow, thanks for all the info!

     
  12. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    Pamela,

    I'm currently researching specs for a video workstation that hopefully will never crash. I understand that a stable setup requires the following:

    * Good power supply. Most power supplies on the market do not output their rated wattage. Read the power supply articles on www.tomshardware.com for more info. I understand FORTRON is a good brand that actually outputs more than its rated wattage.

    * Name brand RAM. Do not get the cheapest RAM you can find. Do not get generic brand RAM.

    * "Chipset" with stable drivers. This refers to chips on the motherboard. A couple years ago, the conventional wisdom was that only INTEL chipsets had drivers that were reliably stable. Nowadays I hear folks are using AMD CPUs, which of course use the VIA chipset, with success.

    I'm sure others can elaborate on the above.

    Best of luck!
     
  13. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    Rob, it's actually the NFORCE chipset that people have used with AMD CPUs with success. The jury is still out on the VIA chipsets. [​IMG]
     
  14. Gabriel_Lam

    Gabriel_Lam Screenwriter

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    There's an additional 5% discount right now at Dell SB, so if you want to get a Precision 650, make sure to give the coupon code to your rep. I would personally get a single processor Precision and buy the second processor after. You save quite a bit of money. I'm on a dual 2.8Ghz one and it's blazing fast. [​IMG]
     
  15. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    Thanks Max for the correction. I'll be sure to keep this in mind as I do my own shopping.
     
  16. RobD

    RobD Second Unit

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    The Matrox Parhelia is probably the best choice of videocard, the 2d output on them is very crisp and accurate and they are quick too.

    The Xeons are nothing more than Pentium 4s that can run in dual configuration (Im using a dual Xeon now), dual cpus is only useful for some applications, what apps will the system use?

    I would grab a DDR memory based system since larger memory condfigurations are alot cheaper using DDR. Get a motherboard with the E7205 (Or E7505 for Dual Xeon) chipset. Get 2Gb ram if the budget can reach it.
     

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